This paper reviews and synthesizes the published literature on decentralization of renewable resources and development interventions to identify four key lessons for future adaptation planning at the national level. After presenting an analysis of why studies of decentralization reforms are relevant to adaptation planning, the paper examines priority adaptation projects identified by 47 Least Developed Countries in their National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs). Our research analyzes the range of institutional instruments and relationships visible in contemporary decentralization reforms. The four major lessons for adaptation planning concern the need for national adaptation planners to: (1) attend systematically to local institutions relevant to adaptation and increase local capacity through transfers of information, financial, and technical resources; (2) empower communities and local governments by increasing local autonomy so as to decentralize adaptation planning and implementation; (3) create mechanisms for information sharing among decision makers across sectors and levels of decision making; and (4) improve accountability of local decision makers to their constituents. WIREs Clim Change 2012, 3:565–579. doi: 10.1002/wcc.193

For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.